Album Review : Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (2016)

I woke this morning to the awful news (seems to be a theme this week) that Leonard Cohen had died. I read an article from the New Yorker after I heard. Part of the article mentions that a few months ago Leonard found out his former lover and the muse for the song So long, Marianne was dying. He wrote these words to Marianne Ihlen

“Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

(The article is below)

I can only imagine Leonard knew the end was near. Like David Bowie earlier this year, he wanted to release one more album before he died, and so this would be his swan song.

You Want It Darker – With a beautiful choral arrangement that sounds like it is from a gospel choir, mixed with Leonard’s deep, gruff voice. The lyric ‘Hineni, Hineni, I’m ready my Lord.’ jumps off of the lyric sheet to me.

Treaty – With a small similarity to Hallelujah, this song has some wonderfully quiet bass and piano.

On The Level – The contrast between Cohen’s voice and the amazing voice of Dana Glover is like oil and vinegar. They shouldn’t mix but in the right combination, they make a wonderful musical dressing. Dana Glover also sang on Cohen’s last 2 studio albums.

Leaving The Table – The pedal steel guitar is the star for me. I get an image in my head of Leonard Cohen starring in an old western movie, sitting at a cantina somewhere in Mexico.

If I Didn’t Have Your Love – Wonderful b3 organ sounds mix with light electric guitar work remind me that the volume doesn’t have to be on 11 to perk my ears up.

Traveling Light – The string work is amazing here. Athena Andreadis provides the wonderful background vocals here. I am surprised there is only one background singer. I guess her voice is so good she sounds like more than one person.

It Seemed The Better Way – The Congregation Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir, the lyrics and that voice bring an image of Leonard mouthing the words of this song in front of a huge congregation during a mass.

Steer Your Way – Dana Glover AND Alison Kraus. I’m not sure Leonard could have found a better pairing of beautiful female voices. These ladies have graced many an album, and they have the voice of angels. I would have preferred they had taken a larger role on the album, but this is Leonard’s work. The violin work here is great as well.

String Reprise/Treaty – 2 violins, a viola and a cello take centre stage here. The first 2 1/2 minutes of the song are all strings, then Leonard sings ” I wish there was a treaty we could sign. It’s over now the water and the wine. We were broken then but now we’re borderline, and I wish there was a treaty, wish there was a treaty between you’re love and mine.” This is a haunting ending to the album and for the works of Leonard Cohen.

I am ok after hearing this album. I was sad this morning, but knowing Leonard Cohen went out on his own terms, with the album he had his hand at making (along with his son, Adam Cohen), I am a bit happier now. You will be missed Leonard Cohen. RIP.






13 thoughts on “Album Review : Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (2016)

  1. J. says:

    I was looking at getting this on vinyl (isn’t released until December) and have stayed away from listening to any of it. Successfully until Friday, obviously. I assumed it’d be a winner, which you’ve confirmed.

    I listened to his first LP on Friday night. Lifted the haze a little… he was a truly remarkable artist.

    Liked by 1 person

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